In this episode, you’ll learn about what two vegan identifying dietitians wish they would have done with postpartum meal planning and preparation!
You can listen via the podcast player below, on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. Alternatively, you can read the transcript below.
Disclaimer: This podcast episode/transcript is just providing education and entertainment. It is not personal medical or dietary advice. Always talk to your doctor before adding a supplement or making major dietary changes. See our Disclaimers for more details.
About Our Guest: Leonila Campos, MBA, RD
Leonila has been a dietitian for over 7 years and worked in a variety of areas in dietetics, including WIC, corporate wellness, skilled nursing, dialysis, and now in her own private practice Fueled By Leo Inc.
As a vegan and a mom herself, Leonila is passionate about helping vegan moms via her programs and coaching.
Leonila is also active on Instagram. Her handle is: @Vegan.Motherhood
Leonila: After you have a baby, all your focus is on that baby, right?
Leonila: Making sure the baby’s okay.
And we kind of forget about ourselves!
Christine: Welcome to the Plant Powered You podcast! This is the resource for all things vegan nutrition. I’m Christine, your host in Vegan Bestie (and I also happen to be a dietitian).
As a disclaimer, this podcast is just providing education and a bit of entertainment. If you have any questions about your health or diet, talk to your own healthcare provider. Our full disclaimers will be linked to in the show notes below (right here). Now let’s get to the episode.
Hi Leo. Welcome to the podcast.
Leonila: Hi, Christine! Thank you so much for having me.
Christine: This episode is coming out around Mother’s Day in May of 2023, and so of course, I had to dedicate an episode to moms who are in the postpartum period. Specifically, we’re gonna focus on meal planning and prep for vegan moms in this incredibly busy time for our chat today.
And I thought Leo would be the person to talk to about this as she’s a dietitian who works with moms.
She has worked in a variety of settings, but found her passion for helping moms after her work in WIC, (and that’s the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children in the United States).
If anyone didn’t know. And Leo has a program called the Fit Vegan Mom System, and she became vegan at a very young age.
Tell us more about that, Leo, how did you become vegan?
Leonila: Yes! So I wanna say I became vegan when I was about 14… 15? Probably 14.
Leonila: Um, this is in Mexico. So you can imagine the reaction of my mom, like, what do you mean you’re gonna stop eating meat?
Because a lot of our traditional foods are surrounded by protein like: chicken, or beef or whatever.
And so, I took a class called food industrialization thinking that it was just about making food, right? I didn’t want to do any deal with killing animals or like any other type of farm classes!
And so we did at the beginning of the class: we made so many recipes that were plant-based or vegan because they had no animals- until, we came to do more animal food. So we had to learn the process of how food comes from, like farm to fork essentially.
And so one of the units was going into where they slaughter the animals.
Leonila: Which was like next to our classroom, and they don’t tell you when that it’s going to be. Like you can’t skip class, say, oh, today I’m not gonna go to class!
But on that day they say, okay, we have to see how the, how pigs are slaughtered and then how they process it, and then they take essentially the parts (that sounds horrible) to be cleaned and that process.
So I was really nervous and you know, I was still consuming animal products. I didn’t know what veganism was or how to be vegan. And so, we get to where they are going to, slaughter the pig, and they use, you know how they use that gun to slaughter a pig?
Leonila: Well, apparently that gun wasn’t working.
Christine: Oh my.
Leonila: So they’re like, we have to use a different method, so they used a sledge hammer.
Leonila: I can still hear, you know, it’s been so long, like half of my lifetime. Um, but yeah, I can still hear the poor pig, you know- screaming and crying because it was so painful. So whoever says that animals have no feelings, they have no idea about that.
Leonila: So since then, I told my mom I don’t wanna consume any animal products. I saw what happened.
And so, you know, when you’re young parents think: oh, it’s just like a temporary thing that you’re gonna go through and then it’s going to pass… but it didn’t!
So, my mom was really… concerned about me, right? Like nutrition, right? Health! Like, you’re going to lose a lot of weight, you’re gonna become anemic. You’re just gonna be so unhealthy.
Back then, I mean, it’s been a while! So like… we didn’t have internet at home, we would have to go to an internet cafe!
But yeah, I basically just focused on eating like beans and like rice and vegetables, tortillas…. and yeah, it wasn’t until I came to the US that I said, okay, there has to be a better way to… feel better. We definitely feel tired, like I would feel hungry and just wanted to eat more carbohydrates, like more rice, more tortillas, more bread.
And since I got into like, researching about food and thinking, okay! There has to be a career that is based on nutrition and food!
And so, and I think what motivated me even more to go into nutrition was because of my grandma. So my grandma has diabetes. At that time there was not a lot of resources or dietitians that spoke Spanish to help her understand: hey, you don’t have to stop eating tortillas or rice to control your diabetes. And so, that motivated me even more to go into nutrition and dietetics.
And then, you know, once I started researching that and (vegan)and hey: it’s healthy, right? There’s nothing wrong!
Long story short-that’s how I became vegan!
Christine: Wow. Well thanks for sharing!
That Sounds a bit traumatizing too- having to see that! Not a lot of people can say they’ve seen something like that (the pig being slaughtered), but I feel like if people were to witness, or even watch a video, we might have different thoughts about what we’re eating.
Leonila: Totally. And just, you know, because I feel that the general population doesn’t understand veganism or maybe they’re against it or whatever. They don’t really see that animals do suffer. Right?
Leonila: Or that animals do have feelings. And when they do see that, It’s like, okay! They have a better understanding of it.
Christine: Yeah. We’re so far removed from what happens.
So, then you decided to, work with vegan moms, right? Or moms who are more plant-based…
Is that kind of why you decided to niche down to work with them as well? Cuz you’re just so passionate about vegan nutrition?
Leonila: Yeah! So, um, as you mentioned right on the description: my passion to help moms started even before I had my children, working with the Women Infants and Children program and just because we see the moms from pregnancy to breastfeeding, postpartum… and then until their kids are five.
So you see that progression, that change, and how nutrition plays a role in healing and recovering… and just overall health!
But specifically because there’s not a lot of information or help for vegan moms, right?
Leonila: Unless you are in the field like ourselves (referring to Christine and Leonila)-we are dietitians and we know how to research things and we know how to make meals balanced.
But even as I was creating my course, and I was researching information, everything is based around like… animal products, right? It’s for non vegans! There’s not enough research. So, that can be a little frustrating.
So based on the information that I gathered, I was able to create my program, and I think, you know, on just a personal experience of like: there is not enough information on like how to have nutritious meals or how to have balanced meals without having to do a thorough research.
Christine: Yeah, I totally get that. You know, even being a dietitian myself (referring to Christine), because Yeah, a lot of the information does say like (for example): we know that iron can come from meat, but we also know that we can get it from a variety of other sources too- and some of them are vegan – things of that nature!
So, in your experience with the program, what do you think your mom struggle the most with in terms of nutrition? Is it getting enough calories or protein after they’ve had baby? Whatis the common theme you see?
Leonila: Protein is one of them, but definitely calories too, right? Because after you have a baby, all your focus is on that baby, right?
Leonila: Like caring for baby, making sure the baby’s okay, and we kind of forget about ourselves. We become second!
But when we think about how traumatic having a baby is, right? It doesn’t matter if it is vaginal delivery or C-section, both of them are going to be very traumatic in the body, and so our bodies are going to need that nutrition even more, right?
Leonila: Making sure that you have enough protein for healing, enough calories to like-if you are breastfeeding, to produce enough breast milk…. and so that’s where I found they need the most help and addition to that is like knowing what to eat, right?
Leonila: You’re tired! You don’t wanna spend hours in the kitchen trying to make a meal when you have a crying baby and you know you have other children and the other children pulling you like: mom! I need that, or I need to use the restroom! And so, meal planning, or making recipes that are easy to make- but are still meeting those needs that your body needs to heal and recover, right?
Enough protein, enough calories, enough carbohydrates and healthy fats: I think is so important during this nine months or a year.
And the other thing too that I usually focus with my new moms is that expectation. Sometimes we expect to be up and ready and running by the time we have our follow up with our Obstetrician right? Um, six weeks, four weeks, or whatever.
And that is such a unrealistic expectation because we’ve been going nine months, creating and growing a human being! We can’t expect our bodies to be ready go “back to normal” in four to six weeks. It is just so unrealistic.
So I think, allowing your body to heal, and it doesn’t matter if it takes a whole year-properly. Allowing your body to recover , and all that.
Christine: Amen. Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever been more hungry in my life than when I was breastfeeding!
You know, I felt like I was starving a lot of the time sometimes! But, you know, I was trying to do some activity after I waited for a bit, and then I was breastfeeding, so you know, I was burning calories even more so, and then I was healing on top of that from the wounds that I had.
And I don’t know… I think I read somewhere like you have a… really big wound after you give birth. I forget how big it is. But it’s just crazy to think about!
So yeah, I felt like I was, was just ravenous. Do you have any tips for moms who just feel so hungry all the time?
Leonila: Yeah. So the main thing is: making sure that you ha that your meals are balanced, right?
What does that mean? So we have our five food groups, right? Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, your protein (your tofu, tempeh, seitan, beans, etc), and then you have your high calcium foods, right? So plant-based milks, plant-based yogurts, plant-based cheese: Making sure that you have at least three of those food groups to make a balanced meal, right?
I have to always recommend: make sure you have your protein! Which for one: to help you heal and recover, but also to make sure that you’re not getting hungry right away. So instead of just having rice and some vegetables… It’s healthy, essentially! But you’re going to be hungry. Right? You’re gonna be hungry like an hour if that, because you’re not adding that protein.
And so if you wanna add even more vegetables or more healthy fats (like avocado, nuts and seeds) and your protein-then that’s going to help your body to not be hungry right away, right?
You’re still gonna get hungry like maybe- three hours later, and that’s normal. Again, your body is working so hard. It’s normal to, to get hungry. And then at that time, you can have either another balanced meal or a balanced snack, right? Again, with some protein or healthy fat, and a fruit or a vegetable. And that will sustain your energy levels for another, you know, two to three hours.
Christine: Yeah. And I’m so glad that you said three hours later: feel free to eat something again, because some of us say, you know: “I shouldn’t be hungry.” But if you think about it, you’re burning calories with the breastfeeding, you’re just…, trying to survive (laughs), you’re probably sleep deprived too, right? Which also ups your hunger! So if you gotta eat, you gotta eat! And it helps your milk supply, right? (When we get enough calories).
Leonila: Absolutely. Yes, it’s going to help you in so many areas!
Christine: Yes! Yeah-I like what you said about having the balanced meals, cuz I feel like… so I have two kids (for anyone who doesn’t know) and I feel like I planned better the first time.
I had some, some stuff in the freezer, you know, some meals, I made ahead of time. But the second one, I had a whole lot of issues, which I won’t go into, but basically I didn’t plan as well, and so I found myself grabbing quick things that weren’t so balanced, you know, like low protein granola bars and things of that nature, and I wish I would’ve prepared better.
I’m wondering how important is it to prepare or have a plan for postpartum?
Leonila: Right. You brought up such a great point, right? The first one: I feel that because we go in not not knowing much, we’re going to be…. sometimes we tend to over prepare, or be just right- prepared just properly.
And so we think about everything like: okay, what do we need? And then we have lists, checklists, right?
The second one is like, oh, it’s okay. Everything will be okay. You know, we’ve done it already, right? (they laugh)
Sometimes it can definitely backfire, right?
Leonila: I’m with you on that too. With my second child, it was, around Covid (referring to the Covid-19 pandemic).
He was born July, 2020. And so with my first one, I had lots of help. My mom would come, my sisters would come, my in-laws would come. And they would help me make meals, or they would carry the baby while I made my meal.
But the second one, like we were so afraid that the baby would get sick, and my husband was at work. I was literally by myself with this young one, and I wasn’t that prepared either, right?
So I just ate whatever, like, just have a piece of apple and some nuts. Or let me just have a sandwich, right? A piece of bread with some peanut butter.
Christine: Something quick. Yeah!
Leonila: Yeah, quick! And so now you know that I am like thinking about it, if I were to go back, right? Like, freezing some meals right? meal prepping, batch cooking -so you make a big batch of food and you divide it up, and then you can just freeze it! So whenever you know you’re gonna need it: it’s ready!
So I think that would be something to keep in mind.
So meal prepping-it helps! And then now they have these little bags – it’s like sous vide, right? So they remove all the air and then you preserve your food that way and you can keep it in the fridge. So you can also do something like that.
Like you could cut some tofu marinate it and just have that ready. Sometimes that’s what takes the longest, right?
Leonila: You can cook something – you can just grab a bag of vegetables or mixed veggies if you have like pre-cooked brown rice… and then you can just cook it or put it in the microwave for a couple minutes and then essentially, you can have a five to six minute meal already.
Or using like a crock pot, slow cooker meals that you can have for like three days.
You might think that it’s easier when the second or third time (referring to being in the postpartum the second or more times), right? But then we don’t think about, okay, I do have other kids that I have to take care of so I’m going to be busier!
Leonila: Keeping that in mind as well. And the other thing is that we don’t, like I said, we don’t really think about ourselves, right? We think about, are they going to need? What are the kids or what is a new baby going to need? And we kind of forget, okay, what are my needs? What am I going to need when the baby comes, right?
Leonila: Or if it’s something out of your reach or something that you are going to need help… asking for that help too- which at times that can be difficult as well, especially with your moms that wanna do it all. But yeah… you know it’s okay to delegate things or ask for help if you have that help available.
Christine: Yeah. With my second one, I learned that meals are so important, so when people would ask me, what presents can we get you? I said, oh, you can get me like, you know, a GrubHub (giftcard) or some kind of a takeout thing, because I knew it was coming when, you know-sometimes you’re just so tired to cook and you just wanna order something or have it delivered. I found that to be super helpful too, although expensive to be honest!
So if you can prepare ahead, that’s awesome!
What kind of meals did you freeze? Do you have any suggestions for that?
Leonila: Mostly soups. Like different type of bean soups like lentil soup, was easy to do. That was pretty much it actually.
Christine: Lots of soups?
Leonila: Yeah, soups.
Christine: Frozen vegetables have become like my best friend too! Because, I don’t have to do the chopping. I can just, pair it with… like you said, having the tofu marinated ahead of time (or something) so I can just bring out my frozen vegetables and have the tofu and then think of… what can we have for a more carbohydrate heavy source.
So yeah, I like the idea of having each thing prepared ahead so you can like mix and match-so it’s not like the same thing over and over too, you know?
Leonila: Yeah. The other thing too that I like to do too is cook noodles ahead of time. So, I make a big batch of it, and then just put it in the fridge. And as I need it, you can use noodles in like different recipes, right? It doesn’t have to be just like one kind of recipe. You can use it in like a pasta salad, and then you can add different ingredients, different vegetables, or your tofu or seitan, add a little bit olive oil, with some pepper. And then you can pan fry or air fry your Tempeh, and then you have another meal you can use.
Christine: Yeah! oh, the air fryer! I recently tried that and I’m in love with that! It cooks up so quickly. So, it’s not a requirement, but it might just be a really great tool (if you can swing it as a new mom) to get one of those to say save so much time.
Yeah. And I was gonna say something about the noodles. I have you tried those bean based or lentil based ones with the higher protein?
Leonila: Yes, I have! Different kinds… and those are great, right?
Leonila: Especially if I don’t have time to add other types of protein to that meal, I can use that, add some vegetables to it and you’re good to go.
Christine: I’m so thankful for those, cuz I feel like they weren’t there like, A decade ago, you know?
Christine: So now we have something that’s really simple and a lot of people like noodles. So now you’ve got the extra protein combined with that, and it makes for a good part of a meal.
Leonila: Yeah. It’s so interesting how you mentioned that they were not out there a decade ago. Because as I reminisce on my journey as vegan. There’s so much that has changed. Right?
Leonila: If you think of being vegan like 15 years ago too…being vegan now is like a whole different world.
Christine: I know!
Yeah. We’re so fortunate. I wasn’t vegan that long ago. I’ve been, it’s been less than five years. But yeah, I’m like, man, what would I do without all these options now? (they laugh) So I think it’s easier than ever to be a vegan mom in the postpartum, but yeah, for sure remember that protein, right?
Because if, if you’re like me and you’re just grabbing whatever’s available, you might not feel very satisfied- if you’re just eating carbohydrate (That’s a great tip).
Christine: In closing, I’d just like to ask some fun questions to all my guests. What is your favorite dish at the moment? And if you could choose one famous vegan to eat it with-so, that could be an activist, a celebrity, or someone in the health space, who would you eat your favorite dish with?
Leonila: Yes! So first question my go-I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it is: just tofu stir fry with mixed veggies and brown rice. And I can eat that every single day and it takes me like five minutes.
A famous vegan person…. oh, I can’t think of her name right now… she just opened a restaurant not long ago. And then she has some vegan products at Target now.
Christine: Oh! Is it somebody Brown (referring to the last name of “brown”)?
Leonila: I think so. Um…
Christine: Tanya Brown? I wanna say?
Leonila: Tabitha Brown!
Christine: Tabitha! Okay. I was close! Yes! Somebody else said that (who has been on the podcast)! Wow.
Leonila: Yeah, she’s pretty amazing, you know? How much she has been able to do and in the vegan space, and as a woman, so
Christine: Yes! Yeah. Very energetic and and bubbl! Yeah, I like her energy.
Cool! Well, in closing can you just tell the listeners where they can find you and a little bit about the program if they’re interested?
Leonila: Yeah. Thank you for that! So you can find me on Instagram. My handle is @Vegan.Motherhood. I check it quite often.
And the Fit Vegan Mom System program: I have a mini course with three modules. It’s all about the postpartum period.
And then I have the Fit Vegan Mom System coaching program. So that one is six weeks and we go over nutrition, how to have healthy meals, balanced meals.
I do the meal planning. And then my sister, who is a certified personal trainer-she creates the fitness aspect of it. So it’s both nutrition and fitness.
Leonila: Yes. And that one is six weeks.
Christine: That’s awesome! And with your sister! How cool is that? Awesome.
Yeah, so definitely check Leo out and thank you so much for your service to this population and anyone who wants to be more plant-based!
Leonila: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
Christine: I had a great time talking with Leo. She is just such a warm and caring individual who is passionate about helping vegan moms. Don’t forget to check her out on Instagram or her website: fueledbyleo.org.
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If you’re interested in learning more about how to help prevent ex veganism through the power of vegan nutrition, check out my free vegan nutrition library over at PlantPoweredYou.com You’ve got this! Bye for now.
Thanks for stopping by! If you liked this one, you might be interested in our other interviews going over topics like:
Communicating with Your Doctor as a Vegan
Nuance Within Veganism
Intuitive Eating and Veganism
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